Arts & Dementia – Tapping into Creativity

Music is a wonderful way of connecting people with their memories and of sustaining or reinvigorating relationships, especially with those closest to us. For people affected by dementia, this is even more important.

Technology has made this experience so much more effective. Personalised playlists, including all those musical connections with special moments and important people can easily be created and loaded on to i Pods or MP3 devices. This, accompanied by ear phones that are comfortable and easy to wear, makes the experience or listening to music even more personal.

Recall old steps from memory, choose to create new ones no matter, there is no wrong way only your way. Laura Karlin expressed our beliefs very well: “There are no mistakes in dance, just solosDesigned to engage people living with dementia; Come Dance with Me offers many opportunities for failure free fun. Participants experience the physical benefits of exercising whilst engaging with each others in a joyful expression of feelings through movement.

Foundation members Bill and daughter Beverley Anne pictured above, express the joy we feel in our Come Dance with Me (CDWM) classes which began in September 2013 and continue to bring pleasure to all who attend.

Classes are on Tuesday mornings, with a one week break between each series of  six weeks. The current  6 week cycle began on Tuesday 24th January 2017, at 10 am. It will finish on the 28th February.  After a break for one week, the six week cycle began again on Tuesday 14th March, 2017 and will continue until Tuesday 18th April, a one week break then begin again on Tuesday 2nd May. and so on……....

Each week the group gathers at the Metro Community Hub, 22 Qualtrough Street Wooloongabba from 10 am until 12. pm. Existing members always make new people feel very welcome.

Robyn Holdway, with occasional assistance from our other dancing friends, has been a constant support to the group she has contributed enormously to morning teas being such popular times, often from her own resources and in every way has assisted me to support the teacher and coordinate the group since its inception.

We have had the pleasure of experiencing some wonderful moments as members of the group have grown in confidence and ability. Alzheimer’s Australia Queensland provides funding and an AAQld volunteer Sue Macklin. The group is led by a beautiful person, dance teacher, Nicoletta Panebianco.

Nicoletta has led the group in many joyful moments and contributed to some landmark achievements. Don’t let anyone tell you people with dementia can’t learn new things. Our group has learned Circle Dance, Salsa, Bollywood, some Saturday Night Fever steps. And, regularly, as soon as the music starts, with some visual  prompting, remember them all.

We have a half hour break halfway through the class, to refresh participants and ensure continued to enjoyment. This is a great time for people to catch up socially with friends they have made since the class began.

Dementia Friendly Towns

Since April, 2016, Enthusiasts who have attended training with me have been working to establish their towns as Dementia Friendly places.

I’d love to see dementia friendly communities throughout the length and breadth of this country, as has happened in the UK where they are rapidly approaching 2 million people who have gladly taken up the role of Dementia Friend.

Any Enthusiast prepared to do the necessary work, to establish their community as dementia friendly, is welcome to get in touch with me. I will be delighted to put them in touch with the enthusiasts mentioned above, to talk about and get advice as to how they went about it.

Ask yourself: If not me, who? If not now when? People with dementia don’t have time to spare whilst we mess about, having endless meetings and talking interminably. They need us to recognise something good and just get on with making it happen. Essential qualities for everyone involved: kindness, respect, a genuine liking for people.

Real leaders, are ordinary people with extraordinary enthusiasm.

If you have dance experience, a Come Dance With Me class could be a good start toward the larger goal of a dementia friendly community.


Arts don’t look for right or wrong answers. Arts give people with dementia the means and the freedom to express themselves. When we create something new, our brain has to do the same.

This is how new connections are made, existing abilities retained for longer and new cells encouraged to grow and connect; leading to more independence for anyone affected by dementia, an ongoing boost to cognitive reserve, new friends and a joyous fun time for all.

Exercise is good for the brain and dancing is the most effective exercise we know to reduce the risk, delay the onset and assist a person to live with dementia.

Even those people who are not mobile, or who lack confidence standing need not miss out. The following is an example of a very successful class specifically for people living with dementia who may no longer be confident standing unaided.

When I was visiting London, on my tour of discovery in 2013 I met the inspiring founder of Green Candle Dance Company,  Fergus Green, who very kindly invited me to attend a class, very similar to one featured on their Website we all had a fabulous time, everybody participated, nobody missed out. www.greencandledance/about .

Story telling

Story telling: is something a person with dementia can do very well.

The open poetic language of improvised story telling invites a person with dementia to express himself and thus connect with others who are doing the same.

Use Flip Charts and the Improvisation game Yes and?  To keep the story moving along, encourage spontaneity, recognise every contribution and affirm the person by name.

The inspirational leader of Grand Gestures Dance Company, Paula Turner, and her Dry Water partner Frances Anderson, feature a video on their Website which is an excellent example of how to lead a group using Anne Basting’s Timeslips method of a group of people who are using  imagination to create a story. this website has a great deal of useful, material and these resources freely available to anyone who wants to use this method to engage people with dementia in an activity that can give them opportunities to have fun whilst creating a story, and/or poem. this can occur successfully in small groups, or one to one at home with a person.